Add Charm with Window Boxes
Beautiful gardens in miniature—that's the essential appeal of window boxes. No matter if you lack the time, money, or energy to maintain large, sumptuous borders, you can still enjoy colorful flowers and foliage in planters that are small enough to change in five minutes and striking enough to give your house a new look.
A Mini Garden
Designer Debbie Kaminski mixes fern, orange calibrachoa, red bromeliad, and ‘Mona Lavender’ plectranthus to create these impressive layers of bright color. Designer Tip: “When you’re planting annuals, their roots are often very compacted. Loosen them up a bit. I think some people are scared that they might kill them, but the roots are tough.”—Debbie Kaminski
Jen Stringer Obi designed this stop- and-stare sight. A trio of boxes filled with white caladiums, red ti plants, and dramatic swags of creeping Jenny and ivy enlivens the facade of this historic home. Designer Tip: “Start with a well-draining potting soil–you don’t want to use anything too heavy. Don’t plant in topsoil, as it will rot your plants out.”—Jen Stringer Obi
Tropical Window Box
This window box by Kelli Shaw illustrates her characteristically bold and unexpected design approach. A red-centered, starlike bromeliad appears to burst from the box. And red-stemmed caladiums echo that color. In contrast, spiky maroon cordyline, deep purple heuchera, pink begonias, and trailing ‘Outback Sunset’ golden globes fill out this arresting showpiece. Designer Tip: “Plants need to be watered before they’re planted. Water them while they’re in the little plastic pots. Don’t put a bunch of dry plants in a box and then try to water it—the water will just roll around the dry root ball and never wet it.” —Kelli Shaw
This elegant box by Tracee Lund starts its season pretty and petite, but the purple salvia, sweet potato vine, and purple wishbone will fill out over the summer. Designer Tip: “Be mindful of all of the physical aspects of gardening. You need to lift carefully and bend properly.”—Tracee Lund
Designer Kelly Megeath uses yellow creeping Jenny, pink mandevilla, purple calibrachoa, and red pentas for a riot of color and texture. An eclectic bunch of petite blooms evokes the feeling of an English garden—all in the space of a few feet. Designer Tip: “It’s important to know if the box is in full sun or shade, and then select plant materials that work together. Also, there are plants that are drought tolerant and plants that want more water; you can’t combine those two types in one window box.”—Kelly Megeath
Go for the Bold
The big challenge in choosing plants for this hayrack was picking colors to complement the vivid coral of the stucco wall.
What's planted: coral twinspur (diascia), blue Panola pansy, blue delphinium, blue edging lobelia, white common geranium, coral trailing petunia, and white 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia
Follow the Magic Formula
This lush planter reflects the proven "thriller, filler, spiller" recipe that puts a tall plant in the center, mounding plants on the sides, and trailing plants flowing over the edges.
What's planted: Japanese iris is the thriller. White snapdragon, violet African daisy, red common geranium, and white 'Tidal Wave Silver' petunia are fillers. Pink and red ivy geraniums, dark red calibrachoa, and purple Lanai verbena are spillers.
Get the look: For an upscale window box (like the one above), have one custom made from rot-resistant wood, such as cedar. It will need painting and a metal liner inside to make it last.
Check out less expensive alternatives at gardeners.com.
Look Cool for Summer
This window box dresses up the front of the home while providing extra gardening space. Horticulturist Tracee Lund, of Potted Pleasures in Charleston, South Carolina, used light colors to evoke a cooler feel in summer. The white, chartreuse, and green also pick up the colors of the house and small front garden.
What's planted: 'Aaron' white caladium, 'Key Lime Pie' heuchera, 'White Nancy' spotted dead nettle, holly fern, ivy, and light pink periwinkle
Make It Interesting
One simple rule to make window boxes like these more interesting: Plant a thriller (something tall, such as a blooming geranium), a filler (something to add fullness, such as colorful caladium), and a spiller (something to trail over the sides, such as purple petunias).
What's planted: salmon pink geranium, 'Pink Beauty' caladium, and purple petunias
Learn how to make a Charleston-style box planter
Winterize Your Window Box
Winter is equally stellar when you know what to plant. Begin with a focal point, the one element that draws attention. In this window box, a tall pyramid-shaped boxwood serves as the anchor plant. To each side, a small, round boxwood repeats the texture and fills the container with substantial foliage. Accent the green with bright red nandina berries gathered from the yard.
What's planted: boxwoods, paperwhites, green-and-white flowering cabbages (in 4-inch pots), silvery dusty miller, white violas, green-and-white ivy, and red nandina berries
Color with Kale
Crisp nights, frost, and crystal-clear days bring lush, vibrant colors to flowering kale.
What's planted: Nagoya kale, Peacock kale, purple violas, and lemon cypress
Learn more about Colorful Kale